Wednesday, January 23, 2019

A Christmas Vow of Seduction by Maisey Yates

A Christmas Vow of Seduction (Princes of Petras, #1)A Christmas Vow of Seduction by Maisey Yates
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I really did like that Zara was able to keep Andres on his toes and go head to head with him. He was a jerk and his behavior towards others were unconscionable. While I understand he had a rough childhood and acting out became a way to get attention, he's a grown man and he needs to act like it. There was a nice amount of angst and tension in this story and Zara and Andres had great chemistry. I think I would have enjoyed it more if Andres was a touch more likable. It's been a while, but I recall that Zara's backstory was tortured as well. I did feel a lot of sympathy for her and I wanted her to be loved the way she deserved. I liked Andres' colder older brother Kairos a lot, or let's say he intrigued me. I thought there was a story to be told about his marriage. It got me excited to read Kairos's story The Queen's New Year Secret, but I didn't like it as much as this one, sadly.

The good chemistry and the angsty storyline made it a 3.5 star read for me.


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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Her Scottish Wolf by Theodora Taylor

Her Scottish WolfHer Scottish Wolf by Theodora Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For those looking for an interracial book with shades of Harlequin Presents with a black heroine, this would fit the bill. Good news is it's also a paranormal/werewolf romance.

Grumpy boss (check)
Plain Jane/Shy/Low Profile heroine gets her man and a great life (check)
Angsty angle (check)
Hot, steamy sexy paranormal romance (check)
Hunky hero with Scottish brogue (check)
Office romance (check)

I wasn't sure what to think when this book started. At first, I kinda hated Iain. He was being a total douche to Milly. And when she gives him her reasons why she's quitting, he goes full on a-hole with her. I didn't get him at all. I mean, who says that to someone who gives him that kind of news? It turns out that he had a plan all along, and things weren't how they seemed. His reasons for being a jerk become very apparent. Not an excuse, but there you have it.

There are some consent issues about something if I'm honest. If you've read Bitten, you know what I'm getting at. But it turns out better for Milly.

So that's not the happy ending, no Iain has to spend the rest of the book gaining Milly's trust. She has plenty of reasons not to want to be mated to him. Her life changes hugely, and I think any person in her situation would have had misgivings. I'm glad that she stayed true to herself and didn't lose her identity in the face of a very strong personality like Iain.

I loved the arguments between Milly's friend Tara and Iain's brother Magnus. They were a big source of entertainment, and Tara would go toe to toe with him in a way that Milly didn't with Iain.

For all the angst, there is some good humorous moments with Iain's villages wacky residents. There's some major culture shock for Milly, and Iain has to rearrange his life greatly, but he's got his mate, so that's all that matters.

I'd recommend this book, but we warned that Iain does start the book as a major ahole.


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Monday, January 21, 2019

Her Scottish King by Theodora Taylor

Her Scottish King (Howls Romance: Loving World; Scottish Wolves Book 2)Her Scottish King by Theodora Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Quite different from the first book in good ways. And more than one twist I did not see coming. Magnus is not exactly likable most of the time. He's really cocky and demanding. I know part of it is being an alpha werewolf and a famous Scottish rugby player. He didn't take Tara's rejection well, sure that they are fated as mates, and not able to understand she is running from their bond. I liked that Tara did have a legitimate reason for not wanting to mate with Magnus, and the reveal is really fascinating. Tara has a lot of layers to her that Magnus had to work to develop. It was good, though. He was used to getting everything he wanted easily. But that's how it works with your mate. While that bond is fated, that doesn't mean that your mate is not worth any effort and emotional commitment. And Magnus had to decide if his pride was worth more than losing his mate (ironically his father faced the same choice).

I liked that this wasn't a predictable book. Werewolf romance has some formula to it (as much as I love it), but Taylor did a good job of keeping things innovative.

It's not a five star because I didn't love Magnus. I really liked Tara a lot and she had a lot of dimensionality and strength to her, beautifully complex.



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Mean Streets by Jim Butcher, Simon R. Green, Kat Richardson, Thomas E. Sniegoski

Mean StreetsMean Streets by Jim Butcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a collection of four longer novellas in the urban fantasy genre written by a quarter of well-regarded writers that showcases each of their characters in ongoing series. I have actually read two of these already: "The Warrior" by Jim Butcher and "What a Difference a Day Makes" by Simon R. Green. "The Third Death of the Little Clay Dog" by Kat Richardson and "Noah's Orphans" by Thomas E. Sniegoski are new reads for me. My favorites were "The Warrior" and "The Third Death of the Little Clay Dog."

"Changes" is a Harry Dresden story that heavily features Harry's friend Michael Carpenter and his family. It's also about how being a hero is not just taking up a sword. It's a culmination of many small choices one makes everyday in how they interact with people around them. The lesson was really important and the plotting flawless. Short but substantial. 5 stars

"What a Difference a Day Makes" by Simon R. Green doesn't measure up to the other stories in this volume because it doesn't have the deep character development, pathos or growth of the other stories. I say this as a big admirer of Simon R. Green. His work is very good, and it works for what its doing, but his real brilliance shows in his longer work than his shorter work. Having said that, I enjoy Green's noir style and the just plain weirdness of his imagination. This story is good but not great. 3 stars.

"The Third Death of the Little Clay Dog" by Kat Richardson is the first I've read by her and I'm a fan. I loved the intricate look into Mexican culture, specifically Dia de los Muertos. Most non-Mexicans don't really get what this is about. It's not a spooky holiday in the way we think about Halloween. It's a deeply meaningful holiday in which people remember and celebrate those they have lost to death. There are some folkloric underpinnings that may not make sense, and probably some aspects that might be a dealbreaker for some people. While the holiday is not spooky, this story is written to have some aspects of the macabre to it. Definitely a ghost story, and it's also about magic, dark and light. I really appreciated this story and I loved the narrator. She did a great job with the Spanish pronunciations and in distinguishing the different voices from one another. 5 stars.

"Noah's Orphans" by Thomas E. Sniegoski is thoughtful and sober storytelling. The concept behind it resonated with me as a Christian who grew up reading the Bible and is acquainted with the Noah's Ark tale. This book has a 'what if' aspect to it that got my mind spinning. Consistent for the rest of the series, but rather joyless. 4 stars.

Overall, a good book, and worth listening to on audiobook.


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Sunday, January 20, 2019

The Queen's New Year Secret (Princes of Petras, #2) by Maisey Yates

The Queen's New Year Secret (Princes of Petras, #2)The Queen's New Year Secret by Maisey Yates
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Unfortunately, this one was a bit slow for me. I didn't really connect as much to the characters and story, although it seemed like it would be my jam. I guess there wasn't enough tension in the book for me. The characters were missing that spark that I need in a romance. It wasn't bad but disappointing for this author.


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Never Trust a Pirate by Anne Stuart

Never Trust a Pirate (Scandal at the House of Russell, #2)Never Trust a Pirate by Anne Stuart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ironically the last of this series that I read, but the second book. I listened to this on audiobook and I loved the narrator Xe Sands. Thomas Luca Morgan is a rogue and that's clear from the beginning. I liked that he immediately saw that Maddie wasn't what she was pretending to be. The villain seemed the most heinous in this book to me, especially for some of the people he hires to get rid of Maddy. Just enough seafaring to make the theme fit the title. Great chemistry between the leads, and I like that Maddy is fairly savvy and sassy and stands toe to toe with Thomas/Luca. Hard to say which book is my favorite, they're all great. I think this one stands out because Maddy is cynical enough to handle a guy like Luca and they felt very well matched to me.

Casting Suggestions:

Aidan Turner as Thomas Luca Morgan

Kaya Scodelario as Maddy Russell


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Never Kiss a Rake by Anne Stuart

href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17817514-never-kiss-a-rake" style="float: left; padding-right: 20px">Never Kiss a Rake (Scandal at the House of Russell, #1)
Never Kiss a Rake by Anne Stuart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reread on Audiobook Fall 2018:

It was great listening to this on audiobook. Xe Sanders is a lovely narrator, with a talent for female and male voices. She endowed Adrian with all the roguish sensuality that his character emanates. She also captures Briony's mix of no-nonsenseness and vulnerability.

Casting Choices:

Liam McIntyre as Adrian, Lord Kilmartyn

Claire Foy as Bryony Russell


Previous Review:

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The writing is sly, sensual, humorous and firmly ensconced in the period. Even if I wasn't the biggest Anne Stuart fan on earth, I will still have found this book utterly enchanting.

I was really nervous with the storyline because I hate adultery with a burning passion. I'm happy with how things unfolded. There was no line crossing in this book that I couldn't live with. While Lord Kilmartyn is supposed to be a sleazy rake, I was completely in love with him quite early on in the book. I found him very seductive and I could see why Bryony fell for him, despite being a very sensible young woman. I liked the importance of his Irish heritage to his persona, and how it had gotten him into a shaky situation of late, but defined him in a way that he couldn't turn his back on. I wish that Ms. Stuart had delved more into where his marriage went wrong, but I got the impression that he wanted to be a good husband to his wife at some point, and he loved her, but now he hated her. In some books with the unrepentant, adulterous rake, I question the character's ability to remain faithful to the heroine, but I have no doubt that Kilmartyn would be capable of that with Bryony. His caring for her when she was in need was very touching and showed more than words.

I also loved Bryony as a character. Her pain in feeling unloved and unattractive because of her smallpox scars made sense. While it scarred her self-esteem, she was still a strong-minded person and no fainting flower in the face of her family's recent change in fortunes. I like her pluck and how her natural personality comes out in her interactions with Kilmartyn. I rooted for her to get him, and win him over in a way that didn't cross the line into adultery or illicit affair territory and I was glad Ms. Stuart gave her that happy ending with no compromise in that area.

The secondary characters are a fun addition to the book, with a little bit of the "Upstairs, Downstairs" vibe as Bryony gets engrossed in the world of the servants and they take her in, especially Mrs. Harkins the kindly chef.

I confess I read the last book before this, so I sort of know how it ends, but it didn't spoil things for me. There is still plenty of mystery in the storyline with what happened to Bryony and her sisters' father to keep the story interesting. That is if steamy romance with a soon-to-be reformed rake isn't enough to keep things exciting.

Never Kiss a Rake is a promising start to this newest historical romance series by Ms. Stuart. She brings all the steamy romance and engaging characters that make her books delicious reads for me. I hope to read Never Trust a Pirate very soon.


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Never Marry a Viscount by Anne Stuart

Never Marry a Viscount (Scandal at the House of Russell, #3)Never Marry a Viscount by Anne Stuart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reread in December 2018/January 2019 on Audiobook:

This was great on audiobook. Xe Sanders has a great voice for both male and female voices. She makes the hero sound purringly sexy and her accents are great too. Listening to this reminded me of how fantastic a writer Anne Stuart is. I can never get enough of her writing.

This is a nice sort of homage to "Like Water for Chocolate" or "Simply Irresistible" but without magic. I love that Sophie's thing is cooking. In the kitchen and in the bedroom with the sizzling hot Alexander. As always the banter and flirting is superb, but then it's an Anne Stuart romance. When all three of the couples (Russell sisters and their spouses/beaus are together, it's magic).

My Casting Choices:

Henry Cavill and Alexander, Lord Griffiths


Clare Bowen as Sophie Russell







I loved this book from beginning to the end. I was so excited to get this as a review ARC, even though I haven't had a chance to read the first two books in this series yet. Alexander is a scoundrel, but you definitely want him to catch Sophie. Great chemistry, and wonderful romance. A five star read!

Reviewed for Affaire de Coeur Magazine in the September 2014 issue. http://affairedecoeur.com.


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Rogue by Mark Sulivan

RogueRogue by Mark T. Sullivan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Rogue is a diverting book that has an unconventional hero. Robin Monarch is a thief who worked for the CIA a short while. He has a complicated past that he's running away from but continues to shape his present. This one's recommended to readers who like globe-trotting adventure and political espionage. It kept me on the edge of my seat plenty of times, but I did get the impression that Robin often wasn't the smartest guy in the room. I don't mind heroes who don't have all the answers, but I feel like he made it easy for the bad guys a little too often. I could see the double cross in this book coming 10 miles in advance. Plus, I think Monarch has wretched taste in women, and it continually gets him in trouble. I couldn't stand Lacey. Ugh. I feel like this book is aiming more towards the James Bond kind of spy thriller than a more straightforward action series. If that's what you're looking for, then you'll like this.

The action scenes were pretty good, and like I said, it did have some good suspenseful moments, but it's not up there overall for me as read. More on the average side. I know my opinions are biased because I was also listening to the Orphan X books, and that's about my favorite thriller series right now. On its own, this is a good read, but it doesn't compare to that series at all.


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Su

Attack of the Fiend (The Last Apprentic/Wardstone Chronicles #4) by Joseph Delaney

Attack of the Fiend (The Last Apprentice / Wardstone Chronicles, #4)Attack of the Fiend by Joseph Delaney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I finished writing this review and it got eaten by the computer gremlins. Oh well, here it goes again. I listened to this on audiobook while I was packing up the house this summer, and it greatly improved what was a tedious task. The narration is well done. This series is pretty darn spooky, no pun intended. It's downright scary at times. The narrator lends well to the atmosphere. There's a feeling of the monster lurking in the dark behind every closed door, a sense of paranoia and an urgency not to trust anyone. The storyline enhances that feeling because the monsters lurk in human form. More of the witches storyline in this one, and further development of the relationship between Tom and Alice. Definitely worth a read.


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Saturday, January 19, 2019

Ms. Marvel: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No NormalMs. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A required read for my Readings in the Graphic Novel class, but it was a fun one. I've never read any of the Captain Marvel books, so I came into this fresh. It's fun to discover this series without any preconceived notions. In the discussion, classmates brought up some issues that I didn't necessary see initially.

I think that this one is geared towards a younger audience than the typical Marvel books, and the writing bears that in mind. The storytelling is a shade simplistic, and the illustrations jump rapidly between panels. The drawings are more sketchlike, lacking a clean rendering and finish. Some classmates thought the creators must have been under a tight deadline, and that's why the final version lacks polish. The conflict seems unfinished, and it was hard to follow exactly who the villain is and what their motives were.

Overall, I liked this a lot. They're some hidden layers to this book that came out on a second read. While the portrayal of Kamala might have been in some way problematic, I still think it's powerful for young Muslim kids to read this book and see someone like them in their superhero books. In these charged times, it's also good for non-Muslim readers who don't know much about what it's like, so they can see that demonization of people who are different or share different beliefs and cultures is wrong. It was also good to Kamala's evolution from being ashamed of being herself, to the degree she wanted to escape her culture and heritage to fit in so badly. Instead, she learns that it's a part of her and it makes her stronger.


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The Midwinter Mail Order Bride by Kati Wilde

The Midwinter Mail-Order Bride (Mail-Order Brides, #4)The Midwinter Mail-Order Bride by Kati Wilde
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Is barbarian fantasy romance a thing? Well anyway, this book was amazing! This is the second book by Kati Wilde I have read and I loved it just as much as the first. Kael the Conqueror won his kingdom the hard way, by killing those who enslaved him. Now, his people want him to be married. They've searched far and wide for a bride, but many woman fear him. Princess Anja of Ivermere offers to be his bride (with some ulterior motives), and she's turned down because Kael believes she can't really want him. Anja does, very much, even though she doesn't understand why. As Kael escorts Anja home through the treacherous, ensorcelled Dead Lands, he comes to realize that he doesn't want to let her go.

Anja is badass, gorgeous and very likable. Kael is HOT and strong and has a secret vulnerability in that he wants to be loved for who he is. I rooted for them to be together ever after.

Kati Wilde is excellent at writing sexual tension. And this book capitalizes on its short length by buying up the tension between Anja and Kael. The reader is treated to the couple falling deeply in love, with some good action and creative fantasy and magic along the way. I hope this is a series, because I would love to read more books set in this world.



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Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #2)The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I listened to this on audiobook, and it was a lot of fun. The narrator really got into the story and was quite good at the voices. While this is geared to the tween audience, it's plenty enjoyable to older readers, especially those who are really into Greek mythology.

Riordan has found a novel way to reinterpret the Greek myths, adding something and some new ideas that make these ancient legends feel fresh. This was made into a movie, and some aspects follow the book, but there are whole plotlines that didn't make it into the movie.

I especially liked how Percy's brother, Tyson, is introduced, and the evolution of the relationship between Percy and Tyson. Initially, Percy viewed Tyson as a nuisance, but he comes to love and value his half-cyclops brother.

There's plenty of action and magic and stuff that makes these books tons of fun. I recommend getting the audiobook for this if you can.


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Spider Game by Christine Feehan

Spider Game (GhostWalkers #12)Spider Game by Christine Feehan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Ice King and the Black Widow

This is my revised review for the book. It's been a while since I read it, but I needed the time to coalesce my thoughts. I am pretty darn disappointed, to be honest. Yeah, I still gave it four stars, and I'll explain why later.

I was loving the first 1/2 or so of the book, and it went downhill shortly thereafter. Trap was an ahole from the beginning but not in an intolerable way. I actually kind of liked him initially. I really enjoyed the banter on the scene at the beginning where the guys are hanging out in the bar. The GhostWalker camaraderie is one of my favorite things about there books. It was pretty fun how Trap was calculating how many peanut shells were on the floor and got the guys involved in, and then Cayenne had come up with her own estimates that were close to his. I felt like they had a pretty good meeting of the minds.

Trap had his moments, but later in the book, he was a serious douche bag. I liked the initial love scenes, but towards the end of the book, the scene on the airplane was just freaking rotten how he treated Cayenne just because she was having a bonding moment with a member of his team and then the sex after that. I don't like any butt play, and I do feel that I was highly disappointed that Feehan chose to spring that on me as a reader. I know most readers don't care about that, but I am not into that and I try to avoid books that have it. A big part of my issues with the sex were his motivations. It was like some sort of possessive/masculine domination/punishment for making Trap feel jealous on the plan. That nearly made me throw the book against the wall. I think Cayenne deserves better. He knew how crappy her life has been. He is very protective of her, but then he seems okay with pulling jerk moves on her. He's a highly intelligent guy, but he acts like he's all testosterone and 100% caveman sometime. Apparently, sex is his main outlet besides his work, so I guess being kinky is part of his nature. The way he's treated his past lovers is questionable, and I'm not saying he gets a pass for it, but i would hope you would get a clue that you don't treat a woman you're suppose to love and adore that way. It's a big deal how he built his house for her and to make a place that she was safe. But then he gives her reasons not to trust and feel safe with him. It's sad because I really wanted to like Trap, but I think he blew it for me with his behavior.

Cayenne, on the other hand, I loved consistently. She was lethal and tough, but also tormented and emotionally vulnerable. I felt bad that she couldn't leave Trap, and although he couldn't leave her, he just needed to treat her better. I normally love the whole fated to be mated thing, but in this book, it seems like a bad thing. I really want to believe that people should be with someone because they are deeply loved in return and there is caring and trust between them.

I'm having a real issue with the escalation of erotic sex tinged with violence in the later books that Feehan is writing. I still love her writing and her books, but I'm really nervous now that she's going to go full bore with the stuff I'm just not into and have no desire to read. I had to skip some scenes in Fire Bound (not between the H/h, but when the bad guys were abusing a woman). I would have to have to start skipping H/h scenes in her books. I enjoy the plotting and the ongoing storylines too much to quit reading her, so my hope is that she doesn't keep escalating with her content. If it comes down to it, I may have to just read the non sex scenes when they get over the top.

I'm still giving this four stars, because I love the GhostWalkers storyline so much, and I really, really enjoyed the first part of the book. I can't give it more because of how much of a cad Trap was and the butt plug stuff (eww).


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Watchmen by Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons

WatchmenWatchmen by Alan Moore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I gave this four stars, but my feelings about this book are difficult to coalesce down to a simple numeric rating. I read this with my Readings in the Graphic Novel course, and I agree that it is seminal graphic novel/comic reading. However, there are some things about this book that I didn't care for. Ultimately, I would say that like and dislike are not the best terms to apply to it.

"Watchmen" started a whole ripple through comic book/superhero fiction that is still profoundly influential in the many years since it was published. The dark and aheroic/antiheroic superhero/crimefighter motif that subsumed what we know about comic books in the 21st Century can largely be attributed to this book, although Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns is also essential. I like darker superhero stories, but some aspects of this one made it hard to sympathize or care for many of the characters. I had to write essays for my class on our readings, and I have some longer opinions on this book that I intend to post on my Goodreads profile under my writings.

This book is very thought-provoking and my class had some very interesting discussions on it. I have to also say that I thought about it for a long time after I finished it. My viewpoint evolved on a few of the characters as well. However, some, I hated to the very end. I could actually write about 20 pages about this book, but I won't. I'll try to coalesce it into a reasonably short review.

"Watchmen" is essentially a murder mystery with masked crimefighters/superheroes. The narrator is extremely atypical, the very questionable person of Rorschach, who is a violent vigilante that wears a hood that changes its expression, much like the Rorschach Test his mask resembles. He is determined to find out who killed Eddie Blake aka The Comedian, an original member of the Minutemen, who later became part of the Crimebusters. He goes to visit other former members: Dan Dreiberg (Nite Owl II), Jonathan Osterman (Dr. Manhattan) and Laurie Juspescyk (Silk Spectre II), and Adrian Veidt (Ozymandias) to warn them that they might be next. Along the way, the reader gets to experience how conflicted the life of a masked crimefighter and/or superhero/villain is. The story is set in an alternate history where Nixon was never caught in the Watergate scandal, the US won the Vietnam War, and in the 1980s, America and the Soviet Union are on the brink of war (the Doomsday Clock frighteningly close to midnight).

Each character has a slightly different perspective of how the passage of the Keene Act made their crimefighting work illegal. Dan and Laurie bond over missing the excitement of it all. Veidt has gone on to build an huge business empire and is a celebrity for his incredible level of fitness. Dr. Manhattan is mostly interested in his research and has become disconnected from human concerns, an issue in his relationship with Laurie, who has been his girlfriend for about twenty years (since she was sixteen).

Intertwined with the overarching story is a subplot about a kid reading a pirate comic. The adventures of the comic protagonist mirror the overall story themes. A huge part of this story is how heroism is not what its cracked up to be. Also, becoming strong enough to achieve a goal can be a path paved with destruction, and in some instances leading to the 'hero' becoming a 'villain'. And really, what is heroism? That's a question posed for every lead character. Since this is a dark, and in some ways, nihilistic-toned work, the answers aren't encouraging. The Comedian is one of the most wretched examples of someone having abilities and using them for bad purposes. The Comedian is an incredibly adept fighter and soldier, but is also very corrupt, acting as a bully, knowing right and wrong but not doing it. He makes excuses for the evil things he does because the world is bad and it's going to burn anyway, essentially. Dr. Manhattan, Jon Osterman is a physicist whose body was obliterated in an accident at the science testing facility where he worked in 1959. When he comes back, it is as a being with seemingly godlike powers that separates him from the rest of the humans he once interacted with, eventually leading to his breakup with his girlfriend. The US government exploits his powers to exercise dominance over other nations (in fact, he's part of the reason that Vietnam surrendered). He's seen and done some of the worst things to other humans, which doesn't help his cynicism about the better parts of humanity. At the point that this story begins, his only tendril of contact is through Laurie. Eventually, that's gone as well when Laurie breaks up with him.
But when it's clear that the world is on the brink of obliteration, Laurie has to convince him to care again.

The more I ruminated about this story, Osterman/Manhattan became more of a sympathetic character to me. He seems the less empathetic, but in some way, he strikes me as feeling more deeply than anyone else. I can completely understand his decision to retreat to a self-built crystal castle on Mars. Sometimes I wouldn't mind having me own, but probably in the mountains in some undiscovered cold part of the world with plenty of snow and ice. People are exhausting. It hurts to care, especially when others aren't all in with you. The circumstances of the accident that gave him his powers were heartbreaking, and he was abandoned to his fate. That's soul-destroying right there. Having said that, he's not off the hook for the questionable things he did and how he treats Laurie.

Ugh, Rorschach. Where do I start? That dude is a bucket of crazy. I feel for what he went through as a child, but it twisted him until he was so broken. All of us are f*&%$! up, but there's no fixing him. He represents the worst of self-righteousness. He's so rigid in his sense of right and wrong that he won't compromise, but then he is bigoted, racist, has poor hygiene and litters in Antarctica. His contempt and mean treatment of his landlady because she has six kids by different men. And he's extremely violent. It's a huge Glass Houses kind of scenario. To me, he is not a hero. He is an antihero, and he's the narrator, but other than the horrors of his childhood, it's really hard to feel sympathetic. While there are parallels between him and other vigilante crimefighters I admire like Batman and Daredevil, his core feels rotten to me. I can't get past that.

Laurie is just plain underwritten. She is interpreted through her relations with the male characters. I am grateful that graphic novels have matured and evolved past this kind of writing, frankly. Laurie could have been a lot more interesting a character if deeper layers to her persona were made available. Just delving into how her stint as Silk Spectre differs from her mother's tenure. How interacting with and in a world of violence has changed from the 30s to the 60s and 70s. Maybe just not stopping at her relationships with men and why her mother and her don't get along.

Dan is honestly a bit on the underwritten side as well. He's written a good-natured guy with a facility with gadgets and a desire for action. His mid-life crisis has to do with missing that sense of purpose and it translates to feelings of inadequacy about not being Nite Owl anymore. Maybe because Moore didn't really know what to do with a guy who is more or less 'normal'.

Veidt is such a sneeringly superior person in his own mind. I can't say too much because I'd reveal some things better left to be read. Suffice it to say that he reminds me of the so-called polite white supremacy that is increasingly in vogue (especially since the 2016 presidential election).

Another issue is the treatment of the GLBTQ characters. Many meet unfortunate ends and their peccadillos are looked at as being unforgivable in a way that being a violent sociopath, bully or rapist are not.

I think a psychology doctoral student could write a hell of a thesis on this book.

There is so much cynicism in this book. It's hard to take in. Some ugliness not easily forgotten. I feel like the psychiatrist who interviews Rorschach in that sense. While I'm not necessarily into the sugary sweet kind of fiction writing, I think it can definitely go the wrong way with the dark and dreary. I'd be a hypocrite to disavow this book. I think it had some insights to give me, and something to offer as far as story and artwork. I gave it four stars because to give less didn't seem fair to me. I couldn't say it was life-changing or a graphic novel that would make the top of my list. I can understand why it would for some though.

So much for a concise review.


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Friday, January 18, 2019

On Target by Mark Greaney

On Target (Gray Man, #2)On Target by Mark Greaney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I listened to the audiobook of this narrated by Jay Snyder and it was excellent. It's been a while since I read The Gray Man, so I was a little rusty on some details, but the book does a pretty good job of catching you up.

Court is a compelling character, undoubtedly a stone cold killer, but one with a moral compass. He started out as a CIA assassin and went private sector when he got burned, and when the book begins, he's four months out recovering from a standoff with his former employers at the CIA. Unfortunately, he has developed an opioid addiction that he somehow manages to keep in check for the most part. Now, he's having to take some assignments that aren't ideal. Gray Man gets picked up by a Russian gangster who wants him to do a hit on a certain leader in a certain country, and while he could say no, it wouldn't be exactly healthy for him. His former team commander contacts him to take the hit and turn it into a kidnapping, and that's when things get very interesting.

This book takes place over about a week, and it's practically nonstop action. Having said that, Greaney also leaves time for some introspection and character development with Court. While Court knows he's a killer, he knows right and wrong and would never be considered a psychopath or a monster, and he's far from sociopathic. When confronted with the genocide and ruthless murder and abuse of the black peoples of the Sudan, he wants to do something about it, even when it complicates his life greatly. He also has to save a woman who is in the wrong place at a terrible time. Court assumes responsibilities to keep her safe that involve killing others, and stands tall in the face of her judgmentalism about it. I personally was pretty annoyed at the woman. She was making some really stupid decisions and when Court risks his own mission to keep her ass safe, she's all up in his face calling him a monster. That conflict was interesting because it is timely with a lot of really profound evil going on in the world. When do our actions represent giving in to evil and compromising ourselves versus being a weapon for finding a rough sense of justice and ultimately helping others, admittedly through dark means?

Court is put into situations where he interacts with others who have the opportunity to assess his character, and most of them have huge character flaws of their own. I hope that there is some closure with the mob boss who hired Court. That dude needs to be dealt with.

I really like how Court has to get himself out of really tough situations using his training, skills and ingenuity. Also how he makes tough, untenable choices. He knew what it meant when he decided to go against his commander's order. It was a tough decision that would make his life hell and things even worse for him than they were when everything started, but he made it anyway. He continues to do this through the rest of the book. Court is the kind of hero you root for to kick ass but also to save the day and to keep himself and others safe, even knowing he's an assassin (although I really like assassin heroes, so that's not an issue for me (as long as they aren't sociopathic or psychopathic monsters who enjoy hurting others).

The action scenes were very well written and cinematic. I felt like I was watching this on a movie screen. There weren't any cardboard character. Even the lesser developed characters still have some depth to them. His old commander, Hightower is an a***&*%$%! And says some really racist stuff too. While the woman that Court helps annoyed me, I think that Greaney did show her growth in understanding of who Court was and what motivates him. Greaney gives a nuanced perspective on the situation in the Sudan and how it relates to the geopolitical current events with China and Russia (how they are exploiting Africa for resources, deliberately causing strife and destruction to facilitate this processes) , and not necessarily showing the Americans and the good guys who do the right things for the right reason.

I would have liked more closure on Court's health situation near the end of the book, but I have to assume that's all okay. I really hope he kicks the opioid addiction very soon.

This is a really excellent follow up to "The Gray Man." I already downloaded Ballistic so I can listen to it very soon.


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I've Been Away A Long Time

I am posting on this blog after a long period away. Life was overwhelming and it kept me from spending much time on reading and blogging. I'm hoping I can get back into the groove and start posting again. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud (Lockwood and Co Book 5)

The Creeping Shadow (Lockwood & Co., #4)The Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I adore this series. I always look forward to the newest book. And I have to get these on audiobook because the narration is always excellent. I was not disappointed. At the end of "The Hollow Boy", Lucy leaves Lockwood and Co for what seems like good reasons at the time. She becomes an independent contractor ghost hunter and she's good at her job. But she's not happy, even with her glass jar skull for company. She misses the camaraderie of Lockwood and Co.: George, even Holly, and of course, Lockwood. But she left to keep them safe because her newer abilities to communicate with ghosts might cause her to make a mistake and get one of her friends hurt.

Lockwood shows up at her new digs and asks for her help with a case, and she agrees to help them out. It's one of their tougher cases, and Lucy finds her life in jeopardy shortly after, and realizing that she's more safe sticking with Lockwood and Co. until they figure out who's trying to kill her. That's when their biggest case comes their way, a whole haunted village. They end up in a small town with serious ghost problems a conspiracy that will shake the foundations of the ghost hunting community.

I love how Stroud steadily builds on the foundation of the last book and the previous ones. The story just expands beautifully and he doesn't leave any plot elements dangling. While he turns a few things on their heads, it's organic as the reader realizes that things weren't as the characters thought or believed. The characters are very well developed and layered. While the main characters are all teens, they have a maturity that is realistic considering the world they live in and the dangers they face every day. Let's face it. The children are the ones on the frontline, confronting and dealing with the ghost Problem.

These books are delightfully eerie and downright chilling at times. Also, there's plenty of human menace. I mean, grownups trying to kill kids. How sick is that? While the paranormal elements are integral to the story, the heart of it is the characters. Everything is told from Lucy's point of view (it's 1st person), but the characters don't suffer from being seen through the typically narrow 1st person vantage point. Instead, they are richly described, with dialogue and action that shows you everything you need to know about them. Lucy also grows as a character as she faces significant challenges and comes to realizations about what she is and how to deal with the troubles she and her friends face. And that they are stronger together.

As with the last book, this has a nice conclusion but it also leaves the door open for the next book. Things are about to get even more intense, and I'm here for it.

Another book I'd love to see made into movies. And I just checked and it's going to be optioned for a tv series in the UK. This pleases me. Sadly, the next book is the last book. But all good things come to an end.

Highly recommend!

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Fury of Obsession by Coreene Callahan

Fury of Obsession (Dragonfury, #5)Fury of Obsession by Coreene Callahan
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

I listened to the audiobook of this and I was underwhelmed. At first I was excited since it's interracial. The heroine is a beautiful, dark-skinned African American woman and the hero is a dragon shifter (Caucasian in human form) from Eastern Europe. I still dug that about the story even though I was overall disappointed.

I think that the major issue is that it was too derivative for me. I love the Black Dagger Brotherhood, and I like that it's had an impact on paranormal romance, but I would like to see an author inspired by these books to take to some diversions in storytelling that make their story more unique. While the author chose to inhabit her story with dragons of all kind, which was very cool, I felt like the style of storytelling, the number of subplots, and the set up of the group that Venom fights with is way too similar to the Brotherhood. There are characters that you can identify as certain BDB characters. Also, I feel that there is a lot of similarity to the Midnight Breed series by Lara Adrian.

Another issue I have with the story is the dropped plotlines. At the beginning of the book Evelyn is in trouble with some Russian gangsters. It's like that all goes away. I was really confused about that. And some of the point of views I could deal without. I don't mind if we see the villain's POV somewhat, but not if they're not that interesting. I would rather have a scene where Venom kicks the crap out of the Russian gangster.

The plot resolution suffered and failed to impress me. It was very anticlimactic. When the book ended, I was like, that's it? Yeah, I was pretty disappointed with this. I'm interested in the one character who reminds me of John Matthew before his transition, I think his name in Osgood. I'd definitely read his book.

Overall thoughts:

The dragon aspect, good.
Romance: pretty good. Sort of an instaluv vibe, but I can live with that.
Characters: Mostly forgettable.
Plotting: poor. Too many storylines.
Narration: I give the narrator some points for enthusiasm and style, but his Scottish accent was ferociously bad. Some of his European accents sounded like a campy version of Vlad Tepes aka Dracula. But I liked him despite that. He was having fun and that made me have fun.

Overall rating: 2.5/5.0 stars.

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Zero Day by David Baldacci

Zero Day (John Puller, #1)Zero Day by David Baldacci
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am a huge fan of the Will Robie series, so I thought I'd try the John Puller books. Plus action/adventure and suspense fans really recommend this series. John Puller is more like Jack Reacher than Will Robie. He's enlisted army and he's an investigator of crime scenes with military ties. His father is a three star general and his brother is in max security prison for treason. John is a by the books guy who follows the evidence. He is a decorated combat veteran with PTSD, but he manages to work past the flashback and triggers and uses the lessons he learned in Iraq to stay alive.

What seems like it should be a routine investigation into the murder of an Air Force officer and his family in one in a dying mining town in West Virginia leads to a conspiracy that goes much further and wider, and much deadlier.

Baldacci can write. John Puller is man of great self-control but he is no pushover. He can handle himself and is no fool. Highly intelligent and methodical in his work, he thinks on his feet and uses his logic and intuition expertly. I listened to the audiobook and the male narrator nails Puller. His diction is precise in speaking John's dialogue, making him feel distinct from other characters. The female narrator also does a good job, especially with the regional dialects. I liked having both a male and female narrator, because it gives the audiobook flow a vibrant energy.

The descriptions of the forgotten mining town and its citizens in comparison to the luxury enjoyed by the rich man who owns most of the town has a realism that grounds the story. The theme of broken promises and environmental rape and pillage, taking advantage of the workers and the townspeople for that extra dime in the pocket.

The suspense is expertly written. What starts as a grisly murder of a family that seems completely random leads to a climax that puts the lives of John, Samantha, the town sheriff, and the whole town and perhaps the region in jeopardy. The clock is ticking while Puller works to solve the puzzle of who, what, where and why.

The action is very good and it's balanced by a plot that is free of holes. I play a game when I read mysteries, trying to guess whodunit. I didn't guess this one, but fortunately John figures it out.

At first glance, John seems to be a very rigid guy, but glimpses of a sense of humor, empathy, pathos and vulnerability shine through his tough facade. His principles are rock solid, and it's clear that he doesn't like bullies or those who harm innocents. He's not moved by people who try to use their power and influence as bargaining chips. To him, bad is bad, no matter how big their bank accounts are. His relationship with his father is nuanced. His father is suffering from dementia and it's clear that interacting with his father through his fog of memory loss is very painful for John. But he's a man of duty and loyalty and honors his father, even when it's hard for him. I like John a lot. I'll be adding him to list of Kickbutt heroes.

I prefer Will Robie over John Puller, but I definitely enjoyed this book and plan on continuing to read it. It's just me, I like the Black Ops Asssassin trope a lot. But Puller is great for a procedural with a hero who is intellectual but also very capable of kicking butt. I think the mystery of Puller's brother Robert's treason a mystery worth delving into, and eventually I know that John will put his skills to work on it. John is a good 21st Century hero, a man of honor, integrity, intellect but also physical skills and capabilities that carry him through and make him an interesting and admirable lead character.

I'd recommend this to action/adventure suspense fans, especially for those look for an NCIS-style book.

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Antigoddess by Kendare Blake

Antigoddess (Goddess War, #1)Antigoddess by Kendare Blake
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this back in September and I'm just now able to write a review. I really dug this book, well at least until the abrupt ending. If you're a fan of Greek Mythology, I'd consider it a must read. Blake does something very interesting with Greek myths and legends. It has some elements of reincarnation, which is normally a turnoff for me, but it was fairly well accomplished in the book. Well, one aspect was disturbing, the character had to die violently to recall who they were in their previous life.

Largely, this was a really exciting read. I haven't been reading much young adult lately because I'm not interested in high school life anymore. The good thing about this book is, these characters are technically teens, but most of the main characters are reincarnated personages from the Greek myths, so they act a lot more mature and have interests and concerns far beyond typical high school drama.

There are some unanswered questions, which I think is a standard tactic of a writer who's putting together a series. I just wish it wasn't so overused. Frankly, I get tired of the whole, "Keep Reading" tactic.

Another issue was Blake sort of picks and chooses which gods/goddesses she'll feature and to what degree. It's up to her as the author, but that was a bit of a letdown how she represented some of them. The curses or fates of some of the gods/goddesses were maliciously creative, and I won't even go into them, because that's part of the fun. I felt that overall the characterization is very strong for the main leads, not as much for the secondary and villainous characters. I especially liked the way that Blake humanized the ancient god/goddess figures and endowed the human (sort of) reincarnated characters with such depth.

Hera is always portrayed as a mega-bitch in just about everything. I've never been into Hera, but in a way it seems kind of sad that her reputation is so low. I would want to feel sorry for her, honestly, seeing as how she's the wife that's been cheated on by her lothario husband for many millennia. But she's always scheming and making peoples' lives miserable. In this she gets an update as a fashion forward Queen B who would fit right in with the One Percenters.

Athena and Hermes have strong points of view as they travel looking for the reincarnation of the person who could be the key to stopping the god or goddess behind the curse that is slowly killing them. They encounter high school student Cassandra, who is the key to their plan, and whose life and family is about to be in terrible danger, because Hera is headed her way.

This book has fantastic action and arresting imagery. The opening scene is the hook that grabbed me and wouldn't let go. I knew I wanted to finish this book just with the beginning. I just wish the ending wasn't so abrupt. I can't tell you how much of a buzzkill that is when you are reading a great book and then it sort of fizzles out. Maybe fizzle isn't the right word. This book goes from atomic explosion to the sizzle when you throw water on a campfire. I was confused at how fast things resolved. Having said that, I was hoping my library would have book two.

Yeah, so I'm giving it four stars because it really is a very good book. I wasn't happy with the ending, so that's why I took off a star. Despite that, I was really excited about this book and I could hardly put it down. This is one I think would make a great movie. Maybe someday soon.

I wanted to like "Anna Dressed in Blood" a lot more than I did. It was good, but it felt too derivative of popular horror movies for my tastes. I think that based on this novel, Blake has grown as an author, and I'm really excited to see where she goes from here.

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Carter & Lovecraft by Jonathan L. Howard

Carter & LovecraftCarter & Lovecraft by Jonathan L. Howard
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The Early 20th Century writer HP Lovecraft has spawned a whole sub-genre of horror dedicated to his ideas, often called the Cthulhu Mythos or Lovecraftian horror. Not surprising that nearly 100 years later, people are still re-imagining his work and characters. "Carter and Lovecraft" is a different spin on Lovecraft. What if Lovecraft, frankly a huge bigot and racist, had descendants of color and one of them ran a bookshop? What if one of his recurring characters, Randolph Carter, actually existed, and his descendant was a police officer? And they team up in a story? Well, that's this book.

Daniel Carter is a detective who has lived through the trauma of his partner killing himself in front of him after they rescue a kid from a serial killer. His last words referring to "the twist". Carter resigns from the police and becomes a private detective. Shortly thereafter, he inherits a bookstore from a person he never knew in Providence, Rhode Island. When he goes down there, he meets Mina Lovecraft, an African American woman who runs the bookstore for her uncle, who disappeared months ago and has been heard from since. Around the same time, Carter is hired on a case that leads to some very strange murders committed by a rogue mathematician. Could all these things be related? Yes.

So this is a very strange book. It's relatively short, but there's a lot here to chew on. Howard knows his Lovecraft. This book is full of nuggets and easter eggs for Lovecraftian enthusiasts. I was encouraged to look up some elements of the story, and it gets deep into the Mythos. I think he captured the aspect of Lovecraft in that you feel like you have no idea about what's going on and you probably won't find out. He also touches on the visceral horror that is integral to Lovecraft. In some ways, he develops some aspects of the Mythos better. His characters are more fleshed out and are used as more than devices to spread the feeling of fear and fatalism about an indifferent universe. He picks up some concepts and themes from some of Lovecraft's stories and creates a new story out of them set in the 21st Century.

But my favorite part is how Howard subversively dissects Lovecraft's bigotry and racism. Mina is a descendant would have done Lovecraft proud if he could get past his white supremacy and racism. She's thoughtful, intelligent, emotionally stable, well-read, and loyal and very strong. She had a matter-of-fact approach to weirdness, which is enviable, considering some of the events that happen in this family. She seems to be the antidote to Lovecraft's claustrophobic fear of the Other and conviction that some people are just genetically inferior.

Daniel Carter is a good co-lead. He's a decent guy. As a cop, he tends to be a skeptic about things, but in the face of weirdness, he doesn't shut down, he follows the lead. I like that he had to confront his own hidden prejudices and comes out a better man after he did so. He does feel at times the helplessness in the face of events beyond their comprehension that is emblematic of Lovecraft's protagonists, but doesn't give into and doesn't allow it to break his mind.

There's a developing connection between Carter and Lovecraft, but it's nascent. They become friends, and its likely what they go through will only strengthen that bond. It is possible that things may become romantic over time. But more importantly, they know that they have each others' backs.

Of course, there had to be some weird people, because it's Lovecraft. The rogue mathematician, the Waites, femme fatales who are simultaneously sexy but also deeply wrong, and their brain dead spouses, the mysterious lawyer who informs Carter of the bequest. Enough to make any reader feel uneasy about everything.

So why the 3.5/5.0 star rating? The main feeling I came out of this was "What did I just read?" It feels short to me. It was a book that kept my interest, and I liked the main characters, but I also felt like there was a lot that I didn't get or understand when it ended. There are some gruesome elements to this story and subject matter that made me uncomfortable. This one is not for young readers. Frankly, I was a bit disturbed by some imagery. The rogue mathematician who discovers a way to manipulate reality is a profoundly damaged individual lacking in morals. His acts are unconscionable and bizarrely cruel. To him, murder is manipulating the odds. It's always hard to read about people like this for me.

Readers who like having the questions will enjoy this book. I think I would have preferred a longer book that delved a little deeper into those unanswered questions. This is going to be a series, so maybe things will be more fleshed out in later books. I like the main characters and the concept, so I'll keep reading.





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In A Glass Darkly by Sheridan Le Fanu

In a Glass DarklyIn a Glass Darkly by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This was the Goodreads Classic Horror Lovers Tales to Chill Your Blood group read in October 2017. I listened to it on Kindle. This volume contains five stories:

"Green Tea"
"The Familiar"
"Mr. Justice Harbottle"
"The Room in the Dragon Volant"
"Carmilla"

I will go through and discuss each story separately.

"Green Tea"--I have read this story before. It's interesting, although the way it's written is a bit on the dry side. It's told with detachment, which I suppose makes sense as it's told through letters written by Dr. Martin Hesselius, a paranormal investigator. The interesting component was the concept of green tea as a substance that can cause a person's third eye to open and to allow them to see into the spirit world. The unfortunate clergyman who is the focus of the story is able to see a monkey that continues to haunt him until it drives him crazy. It could have been more suspenseful, honestly. 3 stars

"The Familiar"--A psychological horror story about a man who is being haunted by a figure from his past as a sea captain. Another use of the trope of a person being driven mad by his perception of something no one else can see. I was not particularly impressed by this story. 2.5 stars

"Mr. Justice Harbottle"--a story about a judge who is haunted by the spirits of those he wrongly condemned to death. Nice build of suspense. I think the writing is much better in this story than "Green Tea" and "The Familiar". Ironically, I read the original version of this story, "An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street" (1853) out of another ghost story volume I was reading in October. I like that it deals with the concept of spiritual consequences for the wrong that one does, even when the person seems to be powerful in this life. The judge was not just a corrupt official, but he was also a degenerate who treated those around him poorly. 4 stars

"The Room in the Dragon Volant"--This is more of a suspense story. It reminds me of something Robert Louis Stevenson might have wrote. It's one of the longer stories in the volume, with some involved storytelling. It's not a ghost or horror story, although there initially appears to be supernatural elements. Lots of nice twists in the story that did impress me. 4 stars

"Carmilla"--Another reread for me. A very famous novella about a female vampire with some very obvious homoerotic overtones. Carmilla chooses exclusively female victims and uses her allure to develop their attraction to her. Carmilla is a create of simultaneous seductiveness and repulsion to her newest victim, Laura. Readers can plot this story out and see over time that there is something very wrong about Carmilla. The story builds to an exciting climax as Laura's father and other concerned parties work to deal with the evil vampire. This is old school vampire horror. Carmilla is the bad guy. Readers who enjoy the romantic angle cannot escape the fact that Carmilla is a sexual predator who is endangering the life of Laura. This was written during the Victorian age, in which sexual values were highly pruritanical, so it couldn't have been written any other way without national outrage. However, it was a night springboard for plenty of later vampire stories that focused more of the erotic aspects and less on the evil monster component. First time I read this, I found the flowery descriptions tedious. I enjoyed this a lot more this time around, maybe because I listened to the narration. 4 stars.

Overall, I would give this 3.5 stars, which is an average of my individual ratings. Le Fanu is a good writer, but his style isn't my personal favorite. He's not the most active writer and I don't find his writing particularly scary (other than a couple of moments in Carmilla). However, he has some interesting ideas and concepts and his storytelling has been influential to the genre of classic horror.

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The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski

The Last WishThe Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"The Last Wish" is a collection of stories about Geralt Rivia, the Witcher, whose occupation is to deal with monsters. This is a frame story in which other stories are the memories that the protagonist recalls as he recovers from a nearly fatal wound.

Readers who enjoy dark fantasy, fables, and fairy tales will love this book. The author retells some well-known fairy tales with ingeunity, such as "Beauty and the Beast" , "Sleeping Beauty," "Rapunzel", and "Snow White", and he also offers unique twists on ancient Eastern European legends such as the strigoi and rusalka, jinn, and even the Fair Folk, Fae or Elves. Some stories are pretty scary, and some are fairly humorous. Some have a little of both. All are written with loving care, with emotional depth, and plenty of action scenes.

Geralt, in my mind, is a hero, but he might be considered an antihero as well. I think he's a hero because he has a very good moral compass, and he makes tough decisions for the overall good. He's not driven by greed, but instead a desire to help people. But he also shows empathy and isn't unncessarily cruel. Even as a monster hunter, he doesn't kill them indiscriminately. His BS detector is well-honed as he deals with crooked humans who want to manipulate him. He's a well-developed character who struggles with the issues all humans face, despite his superhuman qualities.

This series is begging to be a movie, or even better, a cable network series. A thoroughly enjoyable read. I'm excited to continue this series.

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Victorian Frightenings, Volume I Anthology

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wish I had taken notes when I read this, but I didn't have the time. I found this enjoyable. There's a little bit of everything. There are some widely recognized classics in the horror genre here: "The Judge's House by Bram Stoker, "The Upper Berth" by F. Marion Crawford. Also stories by famous authors that might be lesser known, such as "The Lady Maid's Bell" by Edith Wharton, "Madam Crowl's Ghost" by JS Le Fanu. I didn't love all the stories, but generally they were all good quality. The best stories are probably the first ones: "Thurnley Abbey", a ghost story with a hefty dose of psychological horror, and I admit it did make me giggle. It deals with how a skeptic deals with facing something beyond his perception.. Also, "The Room in the Tower" by EF Benson, about a man haunted by a horrible woman in a portrait. This was very creepy! The last two stories, "The Torture of Hope" by Villiers d I'Isle-Adam and "The Iron Shroud" by William Mudford are more like contes cruel. The former about a man who is imprisoned and allowed to believe he has escaped, only to find it was just a cruel way to torment him by his captors. The latter, about a man who is forced to face his own execution in his prison cell. It ends abruptly and makes the reader feel acutely uncomfortable. I don't like the way "The Judge's House" ends, but it's definitely a very effective ghost story with some real understanding of supernatural evil in that a horrible person's essence retains the malevolence it had in life. I listened to this on Kindle and that was a very fun way to experience these stories. It's well deserving of a four star rating.

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